Fantasy Impact: Melvin Gordon to Denver
Melvin Gordon to Denver
As the dust began to settle on the free-agent market, the most fantasy-relevant player finally found a home. Melvin Gordon agreed to terms with the Denver Broncos, a team in desperate need of an early-down running back. They brought him in on a two-year deal worth $16 million. They’ve made it clear this offseason that they wanted to address the position, and will now have to sort out a cluttered running back room with Gordon thrown into the mix.
Back in 2018, the Broncos addressed the running back position spending a third-round pick on Oregon’s Royce Freeman. The Fantasy Football community had extremely high hopes for Freeman heading into his rookie year, but the production has been underwhelming, to say the least. UFA Philip Lindsay has been the running back from this class that has shined for the Broncos, averaging just over a yard more per attempt than Freeman in their first two seasons. Lindsay has been a consistent receiving option in the offense, with exactly 35 receptions in each of his first two seasons. At just 5’8”, 190 lbs, Lindsay is just not simply built to be a 300+ touch guy.
Gordon’s 2019 holdout lasted for a short four weeks. When he returned to the Chargers in Week 5, the team took a conservative approach in easing him back into the offense. Gordon did not see 20+ touches in any of his first four games back. Early in his career, we saw the Chargers give him a true workhorse role. The only full season Gordan has played in his five years with the Chargers, he was able to account for 342 total touches. Though this wasn’t his most efficient year as a pro, he was still able to be a 1,000-yard rusher while also contributing as a receiver as well. He’s shown flashes of being one of the best runners in the league, but durability has definitely been an issue for Gordon over the course of his career. Gordon has shown the ability to carry the load when called upon, and this just might be that call.
Some may look at this backfield as being a three-headed monster, however, there is a fairly clear path to touches for Gordon here. Sure, Freeman and Lindsay are still around, but the Broncos made this move for a reason. With Gordon being a true three-down back, his presence in this offense provides much more than what the duo of Freeman and Lindsay have offered over the past two years. We may even see a situation in which Royce Freeman is completely phased out of the offense. Though he did increase his reception total by 29 from year one to year two, he’s not your prototypical third-down back. Lindsay has a much better chance of carving out a role in this offense as a receiver than Freeman does. Both backs are still under their rookie contracts, so it’s almost certain they make the 53-man roster. Regardless of who does what, there is a good chance that this Broncos’ backfield is handed to Melvin Gordon.
A year ago, the Broncos had the 14th most rushing attempts, yet failed to come inside of the top-20 in yards, touchdowns, or YPC. Having a defensive-minded head coach like Vic Fangio, the run game is going to be the key to the Broncos’ success in 2020. It was clear they wanted to play tough defense and establish the run last year, but they just didn’t have the personnel to do so. Pat Shurmur now takes over as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator after a two-year stint as the Giants head coach. Under Shurmur, we saw a heavy-dose of Saquon Barley. When Barkley returned from injury in Week 7, there was only one game where he saw less than 80% of the team’s snap share. Though there wasn’t much to get excited about behind him on the depth chart, Shurmur was persistent featuring one running back in the offense. To put this into perspective, Gordon failed to have a single game where he saw over 65% of the Chargers snaps in 2019. He was in a 50/50 split with Austin Ekeler in Los Angeles, but may just be a one-man show under Shurmur in Denver. Gordon is a real threat to 300+ touches in 2020 if he is able to stay upright.
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Dom Cintorino is a Central Michigan University graduate who earned a Bachelor's degree in General Management. He has been writing in the Fantasy Sports industry for three years now. He began with Dominate Fantasy where he was the lead writer for season-long and DFS purposes during the 2016 season. Dom eventually moved on to write both Fantasy Golf, and Fantasy Football for RotoExperts through a majority of 2018. He represented RotoExperts in the Kings Classic - Brown Division which took place at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Dom is also currently a contributor at Fantasy CPR where he writes Daily Fantasy Golf.